Eyewitnesses and Liars

February 11, 2020
Peel Eyewitnesses And Liars

Facts Are Easily Forgotten

As an injury attorney for almost 25 years, I have taken more depositions and testimony of eyewitnesses than I care to remember.

It is surprising to many how the stories of parties or eyewitnesses often vary from one another. When one says the light was green and the other says it was red, they both cannot be correct.

Often, it is assumed one of the witnesses must just be lying.

Of course, outright lying is possible. But that is actually far from the only option.

It is possible to be truthful as you understand the truth, but still mistaken.

A Real Life Example

Here is a real-life case I handled that well illustrates this:

  • My client says she was sitting at red light for a while, first in line, waiting to turn left late one evening. She testified that the light turned green, and she proceeded to start her left turn. Then, she explained, the Defendant’s car ran the red light and roared into her driver’s side, injuring her.
  • The Defendant, on the other hand, testified that she clearly had the green light and that my client had obviously run a red light, and turned left in front of her.

Again, both eyewitnesses could not both be true. So, what really happened?

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Caught On Tape

Fortunately, the eyewitnesses statements were not all we had to work with as the entire crash was actually caught on a nearby store surveillance camera!

What did we see? The video showed precisely what my client had said. She was there, sitting through a red light for 9 long seconds and then the light turned green. Just as she had recalled, she began her left turn and the Defendant’s car roared through a red light and crashed into her driver’s side.

So how could the Defendant seem to be truthful, but still be so obviously wrong?

Perceptions Are Everything

It turned out that there were two intersections in a row that were controlled by relatively new traffic lights. It appears that the Defendant saw the first light, which apparently was green, and did not even notice the following light which was red.

When she testified that the she had a green light, she was telling the truth as she understood it. When she testified that the did not run a light, she was telling the truth as she understood it. Lastly, when she testified that my client ran a red light, she was telling the truth as she understood it.

Truthful Can Still Be Wrong

There are lessons for all of us in this matter. People can be genuinely wrong. They can be truthful as they understand it but factually incorrect.

Seek first to understand, before you seek to be understood. The truth is always there, even if you have to dig for it.

Mr. Peel seeks justice for those injured in truck, motorcycle, and car crashes. He often addresses churches, clubs and groups without charge. Mr. Peel may be reached through PeelLawFirm.com wherein other articles may be accessed.

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